In the aftermath of several days in the intellectual sauna, so to speak, with Benjamin, followed by a figural plunge into the wintry waters with Berger, I feel refreshed and ready to attempt some timely reflections on Twitter. I’m on the verge of a coin toss to decide whether, in light of the various opportunity costs, to devote several hours to a book by Dom Sagolla, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form, whose foreword is by Jack Dorsey, “Creator, Co-founder, & Chairman, Twitter, Inc.” According to the brief bio on the back cover, @Dom “helped create Twitter with Jack Dorsey and a team of entrepreneurs in San Francisco. He also helped engineer Macromedia Studio, Odeo, and Adobe Creative Suite, and now produces iPhone applications with his company, Dollar App.”
Here is part of what @Jack has to say about Twitter in his foreword:
The amazing thing about this particular protocol is that it’s being defined daily. By you. Twitter was inspired by the concepts of immediacy, transparency, and approachability, and created by the guiding principles of simplicity, constraint, and craftsmanship. We started small. We built something out of love and a desire to see it flourish throughout the world. We defined a mere 1 percent of what Twitter is today. The remaining 99 percent has been, and will continue to be, created by the millions of people who make this medium their own, tweet by tweet. (xiii)
As I’ve written before, I can’t fathom how they work out those percentages. In any event, @Dom’s introduction provides a concise account of Twitter’s origins and early history, including an incident of which I was previously unaware:
James Black, a photojournalist from Oakland, California, was on a trip to Egypt. On April 16, 2008, he was detained by Egyptian law enforcement over a simple misunderstanding. As he was thrown in the police car, he wrote one word: “Arrested.” [http://twitter.com/#!/jamesbuck/status/786571964 ] This Twitter post was picked up by U.S. authorities and resulted in his release from jail the following day. Twitter received nationwide news coverage that day, a true sign that one could have a large impact with only a few characters of text. (xxiv-xxv)
The intro closes with a “recap” of Twitter’s brief history in the “short form” that the books seeks to analyze, promote, and exemplify:
Odeo @Jack @Ev @Biz & SMS 2006. @SxSW @MTV 2007. @FailWhale then @BarackObama 2008. Mumbai. Hudson. @Oprah. #Iran
@Dom’s exemplification of the short form that he is writing about is perhaps a sign that he practices what he preaches. I’ll be updating on the experience of reading 140 Characters as time allows.